Everyone equates the beach, boating, and sun vacations with a need for sunscreen, but when it’s cold and snowy in the mountains, we are more concerned with frostbite and windburn than sunburn. The American Academy of Dermatologists warns skiers that UV rays at elevation are much stronger than at sea level. At 10,000-feet, the UV index is 40 percent higher, for example. Add to that the refraction factor, as snow reflects as much as 80 percent of UV rays back up toward your skin, and skiers and snowboarders need to be on high alert for sun exposure.
On a sunny spring ski day, your freckles (a cute term for sunspots) will pop out on like moguls on Outer Limits. Skiers should always wear a high SPF – even in freezing, flat-light December. But according to the 2012 report by the Sunscreen Environmental Working Group, “common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) may speed the development of cancer.” Other confusing chemicals in sunscreen include oxybenzone, diethanolamine, salicylates and parabens. What’s a fair skin skier to do? Steer clear of fair weather? Stick your head in the snow bank?
The latest advice from Dermatologists is to cover up – so don’t toss that balaclava or bandana into your ski bag just because it feels like spring. Bandanas can block up to 99 percent of UV, completely chem-free and they’re kind’a cool. Shaun White and the shredders in the terrain parks are wearing bank robber style bandanas and they look gangsta (which is a good thing apparently). A broad spectrum sunscreen is also recommended, especially for children with susceptible skin, ideally containing zinc (preferably without the above mentioned offenders).
Annually, over one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer. Skin cancer and melanoma account for 50% of all types of diagnosed cancers combined, and 90% of it is caused by excessive exposure to the sun that is preventable.
Safe Sun Tips for skiers and snowboarders:
Apply a paraben free sunscreen prior to sun exposure.
Reapply sunscreen every 80 minutes of exposure.
Carry a pocket size sunscreen tube like Neutrogena and lip balm with SPF.
Cover your eyes with goggles or sunglasses, and your face with goggles and a bandana for the best protection against intense sun rays.
Avoid the direct sunlight during the strongest hours of the day 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Remember snow reflects up to 80% of the UV rays so don’t forget your neck and chin.